When the door closed behind Buffy and Riley, Spike threw his cigarette on the ground and got back in his car to go look for something else to kill. He was suddenly feeling the need to get into a fight that would last longer than the few fledglings he’d found and dusted earlier in the evening. After telling him she didn’t want to go out, Buffy’d obviously changed her mind for the soldier.
Spike had checked the house earlier, planning to report to Buffy about his patrol, only to find it completely empty. Meaning Joyce wasn’t home. And now that their evening out was over, Riley was following Buffy into the house. Snarling, he peeled out from his parking spot, not caring if they heard him or not.
True to her word, Dawn had gone to her room, so Buffy and Riley had the living room to themselves. Buffy turned on the TV and settled onto the couch. After a moment of hesitation, Riley sat beside her and put his arm across the back of the sofa. After a desultory perusal of the menu, Buffy settled on an old Bruce Lee film and put the remote down.
With them both being martial arts experts, they soon found themselves enjoying the fight scenes and commenting on the various moves.
“Whoa! That’s a new one on me. Have you seen it before?”
“Yeah, that’s one of Sp—ecial moves that Giles taught me. Seems like vampires like it a lot, so I needed to learn to defend it.” She frowned. “Isn’t is weird how all vamps seem to know how to fight? Even the ones still brushing dirt off their clothes? Did you guys ever study that? Do you know why they all seem to know how to fight?”
Riley shrugged. “Can’t say we did. We usually used nets and tasers to capture them, and their food was drugged to keep them docile, so....”
Buffy glanced at him and shifted slightly away. “Really? So you never like, actually had to fight one?”
“Well, there was that time Spike got loose while Maggie was testing him for—” At the look on Buffy’s face, he continued quickly. “Turns out he’d figured out the drugged blood and wasn’t eating it. So when he got loose, it took five of us to bring him down. Maggie wouldn’t let us dust him because she was excited about how he did on her tests and she’d already decided he should get the chip.”
Buffy bit her lip. “Five guys, all human – more or less,” she added, remembering how enhanced Riley had been before having his own chip removed. “I’m surprised you were able to pull him down without getting somebody killed.”
“He did put two of my best men in the hospital,” Riley muttered. “I wanted to stake him, but Maggie was the boss. We finally got a taser on him and threw him back in his cell.”
Buffy found herself perfectly comfortable with the idea that Spike had seriously injured two of Riley’s men. She remembered her own surprise encounter with a squad Maggie had sent to test her and nodded, saying almost to herself, “I guess he must have been pretty weak from the lack of blood.”
“You think he should have beaten us?” Riley sounded offended and disbelieving.
“Do you remember what I did to your squad?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “Well, yes, but—”
“Spike beat me the first time we fought. We’ve always been pretty evenly matched – just never managed to kill each other. I don’t think even five enhanced humans could have taken him if he was healthy and you didn’t have tasers.”
“Then I guess it’s a good thing we did,” Riley said through tightly clenched teeth. “And that he’s got a chip now.”
“I suppose it is. If he didn’t have that chip....” She smiled up at Riley. “If he didn’t have that chip, I guess that vamp last night would have had a really good day.”
“How can you joke about almost dying?”
Buffy shrugged. “I already died once. You know that’s why Faith is a slayer. It’s an occupational hazard. Slayers don’t live very long. I’m probably already past my expiration date.”
“It’s not funny.”
“No, it isn’t. But I did my ranting and crying about how unfair it all is years ago. Now I just concentrate on getting better at what I do and living as long as I can.” She turned back to the screen. “Oh look. Now there’s a move I haven’t seen yet.” She studied the fight going on intently while Riley studied her with newly aware eyes.
“You really aren’t like anyone else,” he murmured. “And I don’t mean that just in a ‘you’re an amazing girl and I really like you kind of way’.” Buffy gave him a small smile before turning back to the screen. They were quiet until the credits rolled, then Riley stood up and stretched.
“I guess I should take off. It’s getting late, and if I’m not going to spend the night....”
“I don’t think it would be a good idea,” Buffy said. “We have to get back to the hospital first thing in the morning, and I’m going to try to get some sleep.” She walked toward the door with him. “Thanks for keeping me company.” Their goodnight kiss was perfunctory on both parts, something that left both Riley and Buffy frowning as the door closed between them.
When Buffy had closed the door behind him, she walked to the kitchen, leaning on the counter and picturing her mother there, smiling and joking about Spike only that morning. Sudden fear clenched her body, and she shuddered. With no real idea why the night air might be soothing, just that she knew it would, she opened the back door and went outside to sit on the porch steps.
She put her head on her knees and gave in to the emotions she’d been holding so tightly in check all night, sobbing quietly into her lap. A whisper of sound brought her head up in time to see Spike stalking toward her. His game face and furious expression died with the planned comment about her date with Riley as he saw the tears in her eyes.
“Nothing.” She put her head back down so as not to give away the lie.
“Buffy?” He sat beside her and lifted one hand for a tentative pat on her back. “Talk to me, Slayer.”
Taking a deep breath, Buffy filled him in on where she’d been all night and why she was crying. By the time she finished, he was pacing the yard, swearing in several demon languages, and she was in control of herself again.
“Be quiet, Spike. You’ll wake Dawn up.”
He cocked his head for a moment, then shook it from side to side. “Wild horses couldn’t wake the Bit up.” In spite of his words, he stopped pacing and sat back down beside her. “What can I do, Buffy?” he asked quietly. “Don’t want to get in the way, but if you need something, just ask.”
“I need for my mother to not be facing brain surgery tomorrow morning, but I guess there’s not much you can do about that.”
“Would if I could, love.”
She nodded. “I know you would.” She leaned into him a little, just enough to brush their arms together. “Thanks.” She straightened up before he could make more out of it than she wanted. “How did patrol go tonight?”
“Not much to do. Cleaned out two cemeteries and the Bronze parking lot. I’ll catch Restfield on my way home.”
“Then why are you so beat up?” she asked, finally noticing that he was somewhat the worse for wear. He cleared his throat and studied the tops of his boots. “Spike?”
“Saw you coming home with the big lump,” he mumbled, “and thought you’d gone out after telling me you wouldn’t. And when he followed you inside.... might have had some excess need for violence that required cleaning out a demon bar.”
“By yourself?” When he nodded, she shook her head and gave a soft laugh. “And Riley thinks I’m exaggerating how good you are in a fight.”
“Bragging on me, were you?”
“I dunno. Maybe. Sort of? Don’t let it go to your head.”
“Too late,” he said with obvious delight.
Buffy laughed again, almost sadly. “And on that note....” She stood up and stretched, blushing when she caught Spike staring at her, then grabbing her side when it reminded her that stretching wasn’t a good idea. “Ow!”
He rose to his feet and put his hand over hers where she was holding her side. “Looks like I’ll be patrolling for you a while longer.” He left his hand on hers, moving closer. “Wish there was some way for me to be there tomorrow, but I reckon the tin soldier has that covered.”
She made a face at him, but shook her head. “I’m going to call Giles for a ride to the hospital. I’ll let him tell Willow and she can tell everybody else. I guess Riley has to work. It’s just as well. He wants me to be so needy, and I....”
“And you don’t want to be needy. Know that, Slayer. Man doesn’t know how to appreciate what he’s got.” He leaned in and brushed his lips over hers, once again pulling away before she could object. “Whenever you’re ready for a man who does, you know where to find me.” He released her hand and stepped back. “I’m sorry about your mum. If you have a chance sometime tomorrow, please let me know how she’s doing. And don’t worry about patrol for a while. I’ll talk to the watcher and we’ll keep it covered.”
Buffy nodded and walked to the door. “Good night, Spike. I... I’m sorry you thought I was blowing you off for Riley.” She cocked her head at him. “You looked really mad when you got here.”
“I was a mite brassed off at you,” he said. “But I would’ve got over it. Not really sure what I was planning to do about it anyway...” he admitted with a shrug. “But I would rather have had something to be mad about than to have your mum in danger.”
She nodded. “Me too. Talk to you tomorrow.”
Spike was well on his way back to Restfield when he stopped to watch a woman in a tight red dress, gesturing to scabby-looking little creatures and shrieking at them. His vampire hearing was easily able to catch what she was screaming.
“What do you mean, you can’t find my Key? That Slayer bitch has it. You need to take it from her. No, I don’t know what it looks like. But she does! Now find her and find my Key and do it— No!” Her shriek got louder. “Not now!”
Spike watched with interest as she shuddered all over and turned into a tall young man who seemed embarrassed, but not surprised, to find himself wearing a dress and high heels. Looking around quickly to see if anyone was watching, he met Spike’s eyes through the windshield. Spike drove closer and rolled down his window.
“Bit underdressed aren’t you, mate? Give you a ride somewhere?”
The man nodded. “If you could just drop me near the hospital? I’ve got extra clothes there.” He climbed in, surprisingly unconcerned about getting into a stranger’s car in the middle of the night in Sunnydale. “I’m Ben,” he said as he stared out the window.
“Spike. And either you’re really new here, or the you that looks a lot better in that dress has some reason not to worry about vampires.”
Ben shivered and moved closer to the window. “I’m worried, but Glory isn’t, and she usually knows what she’s talking about.”
“Relax, I’m not planning to bite you. Was just a bit curious, that’s all. It’s not everyday you see a bloke pop up like that, and then get in the car with a stranger. What if I was human?”
“If you were human, you wouldn’t have remembered that you saw the change. And since you’re a vampire, Glory isn’t worried, so.... Stop here.”
Spike obeyed and Ben got out of the car and glanced around before running behind a dumpster. He emerged minutes later in medical scrubs and waved to Spike. Shaking his head, Spike drove away, but instead of going home he went to wake Giles up.
When Spike’s incessant pounding had finally awakened Giles, he opened the door with a curse and a revolver in his hand. Spike blinked in surprise, then grinned.
“You have hidden depths, Rupert. Although that wouldn’t help you much against a dead man.”
“Well, given that you’re the only dead man capable of getting in here, it seemed appropriate. What do you want, Spike? It’s gone 2 a.m. already.”
Spike pushed his way inside and walked to the desk. “Get your notebook, Watcher. I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to write it down. Several times and places, cause if that wanker was telling the truth, you’re not going to remember it after I tell you.”
“This couldn’t wait till tomorrow?” Giles grumbled, even as he took out a pad and pen.
“This might could, but it’s not my only reason for coming here tonight.”
He proceeded to instruct Giles to write down Glory’s name, that she was searching for a key of some sort, that she thought Buffy had it, and that she could turn into a human man named Ben, but that humans wouldn’t be able to remember seeing it happen. He checked that Giles had written everything down, including the instructions to keep writing it over and over. He added that Ben apparently worked at the hospital.
“Which brings me to my main reason for being here... the hospital.” He quickly filled Giles in on Joyce’s condition and the evening’s events, leaving out his encounter with Riley.
“So, Buffy and the Bit need a ride to the hospital first thing in the morning. And they’ll need some moral support while they’re there. I’d do it myself but this pesky sun allergy means I can’t.”
“Oh dear lord.” Giles leaned back in his chair. “Poor Buffy. Poor Joyce. Of course I’ll pick them up in the morning. I’ll call Buffy first thing and tell her to wait for me.” He gazed at Spike. “If this Ben person and Glory are working together... what?” Spike rolled his eyes and pointed to the notes Giles had written down.
“You just keep repeating that to yourself until you get it. Maybe you can get the witches to work a spell to counter whatever it is that is causing it, but in the meantime, keep a note in your pocket.”
Giles nodded. “What I was going to say was, this may be one of those times when you cannot be there 24/7 for Buffy. Glory can obviously appear in the daytime, as can Ben. Perhaps Riley can....”
Spike’s snarl startled him, but before Giles could remonstrate with him, Spike sighed and nodded.
“I expect you’re right, Watcher. Much as I hate it, you’re right. His fancy weapons might be a good thing to have around. Although he’s going to be just as blind to the real situation as anyone else.”
Spike stood up. “I might try to find one of those little scabby creatures and see if they know what this key looks like. Pretty sure they aren’t human, so getting information out of one of them might be fun.” He laughed at Giles’s shocked expression. “I am what I am, Watcher. The chip and my feelings for the Slayer aside, I’m still a demon, and I like demon things.” Giles shuddered, but nodded.
“Very well. I will set the alarm and try to get a few more hours of sleep before I call Buffy. This is important information – I only hope I can remember to read it. I will talk to Willow about working on a counter spell. Perhaps a general spell to remove other spells will work.” He walked Spike to the door. “I suppose a thank you is in order,” he said.
“Don’t hurt yourself, there, Rupert. Your smile is quite thanks enough.” With a laugh, Spike disappeared into the dark leaving Giles to close and lock the door behind him.
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